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Split Oregon deer season goes back decades

I'm a native Oregonian for just shy of 70 years. I've been hunting since I was a 4 years old and began carrying a rifle at age 12. Back in the day, I could hunt Eastern Oregon or Western Oregon with just a deer tag. When did the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife begin its policy of having hunters apply for draw in units in Eastern Oregon for deer, elk, etc. You folks seem to find answers to just about everything. Just asking. Thank you.

— Larry B., Medford

Well, Larry, it seems you've been out of the woods looking for deer for about 40 years because that's how long state wildlife managers have split Western Oregon and Eastern Oregon and required hunters to choose whether they were going to hunt black-tailed deer in Western Oregon and mule deer in Eastern Oregon.

It's been even longer for Eastern Oregon Rocky Mountain elk hunters, who have seen a split season with limited-entry tags there since 1972.

The deer seasons go back to 1901 when the Oregon Legislature — which in those days set hunting seasons — set the first deer season, which was statewide and with a five-deer limit, according to the ODFW's Mule Deer Management Plan.

In 1923, concerns over shooting too many does turned the season to buck-only, and it pretty much ran that course until 1941, when the Legislature turned over big-game management to the Oregon Game Commission, the plan states.

In 1948, Oregon issued its first deer tag (just a license was all you needed until then) so biologists could track effort.

The horrible winter of 1968-69 decimated mule-deer herds, and Oregon clamored for a way to protect that Eastern Oregon resource, the plan states. And in 1976, the state settled on a split season with Oregonians required to choose to hunt either Eastern Oregon's mule deer or Western Oregon's blacktails.

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